Ewing, Benjamin E., Jr.
Ewing was born in 1925 in Florida. The members of his family were Protestants and considered themselves patriotic Americans. Ewing notes that during his youth he accepted the idea that Afro-American people were something between animals and human beings.
He was inducted into armed forces in June 1943. Most of his schoolmates were called for service, and they regarded it as a honor to be able to fight for America and its democracy. First, he attended the ASTP, the army specialist training program, which was a substitute for college, then he joined infantry basic training. Ewing says that he was not aware of the persecution by the Nazis before he served in Europe.
In October 1944 he was sent as a soldier of the 103rd Infantry Division to Marseilles, France. From there his unit moved farther on to the northeast of France, where he first experienced combat. At this time he became a sergeant. Of all war-related happenings, he most recalls one that changed him and his attitude toward other peoples: Four Afro-American soldiers saved his life and the lives of his fellow soldiers during a dangerous combat action. From this time on he considered all humans to be equal. Before the 103rd Infantry Division entered Germany, Ewing had been promoted to a platoon sergeant and joined the 45 Infantry Division. His unit was involved in battles around Nuremberg.
On April 29, 1945, they received an order to march toward the Dachau concentration camp, which had been liberated a few hours earlier. Ewing remembers that his unit passed by a train of cattle cars, which were full of the camp’s inmates’ dead bodies. While proceeding into Dachau he was astonished by an awful smell, which turned out to be the smell of burned human flesh. When Ewing’s unit entered the camp, they were welcomed by those prisoners who were still able to walk. Inmates’ corpses were still piled in front of the crematoriums. Ewing also remembers having seen evidence of the execution of SS guards by American soldiers. He entered the SS officers’ barracks saw children’s toys and a crucifix hanging on the wall. Ewing states that he was unable to comprehend how people who were capable of committing such crimes could raise children and adhere to religious symbols.
After one day in Dachau his unit was ordered to Munich to take part in the battle for the Bavarian capital. Once the Germans surrendered, Ewing stayed in Germany among the occupying troops for another two months.
Date: March 29, 1995
Interviewer: Donna Sklar
Length: 1 hour 35 minutes
Format: Video recording